Interview: why you should consider an electric car

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Have you ever considered going electric? There was a time when the concept of battery-powered cars was deemed laughable, but today there is an increasing number of drivers ditching petrol and making the switch for the benefit of both the environment and their wallet.

Liftshare aims to help drivers cut back on carbon and save money, so we understand why they might consider an electric car. After all, if you remove petrol costs from the equation it’s not hard to see that many of us would be significantly better off each year.

If the benefits are clear, then why are so many drivers still on the fence about electric cars? We spoke with Dr. Ben Lane – Managing Editor of Next Green Car and founding director of Ecolane, Transport and Environment Consultancy. He offered us some expert insight into how electric cars work, their benefits, and what you need to know about owning one.

First off, Lane urges drivers to leave their presumptions at the door and simply try an electric car before passing judgement, as they can surprise thanks to their typically high torque and rapid acceleration from a standstill. They are not weak vehicles by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some logistics to consider.

He adds that initial vehicle costs aside, electric car owners can expect fuel costs of around 3p a mile, which is significant considering petrol and diesel cars cost their owners around 10-12p per mile for fuel alone. That’s a saving of around 80% depending on your average mileage.

Lane adds, “Experience to date suggests that maintenance costs are likely to be lower than for conventional cars, but you will need to keep your car regularly serviced by your dealership rather than your local corner garage – who may not have the kit to service EVs quite yet.

“Depreciation rates can be high as there is some uncertainty in the market about the value of a used EV in a few years’ time. To maintain the car well, charge the battery regularly, keep it fully serviced, and immediately attend to any changes in the battery performance if any changes should occur.”

Logistically, Lane advises that electric owners need somewhere to charge their vehicle safely overnight – be it a driveway, garage or reserved parking, while those renting homes should check if their landlord is happy to install a charge point. The cars themselves can be rented at low cost.

“Leasing is an excellent option for EVs as you won’t have to worry about battery life or resale value – two issues that may unnecessarily keep you awake at night. Then choose a couple of models to put on your shortlist and go and drive them all – during your test drives you’ll get a sense of whether the dealer is willing to cut you a good deal.

“If however you regularly drive more than 100 miles in a day, or if you’re not interested in learning how to live with a new technology, then give EVs a miss and look for a low emission conventional car.”

Formed in 2006, Next Green Car’s two founders brought a wealth of low emission car knowledge and publishing experience together to create the ultimate impartial guide to sustainable driving. If you are concerned about your carbon output, the site offers green ratings for ever new and used car in the UK.

“We like to maintain our independence so don’t side with one manufacturer over another,” Lane cautions.” That said, when it comes to EVs, some brands are making more of an effort that other to design high quality vehicles that work.

“These include Nissan with the most popular selling LEAF EV (below), Renault with its range of three ‘everyday’ EVs, BMW with its designer i-models, and, for those for whom money is no object, Tesla with it tech leading Model S. Mainstream manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Kia also offer new stylish electric vehicles.”

We closed our chat with Lane by talking about the bigger picture. What is the true, widespread environmental impact of electric cars?

“The true benefit of fully electric cars is that they are zero-emission at the point of use,” he concludes. “That means no NOx or particulate emissions in city centres, pollutants which already account for over 30,000 premature deaths per year in the UK. Climate change gases such as CO2 are also reduced, by up to 40% if average mix UK electricity is used, by 100% if powered by renewables such as solar or wind energy.

“One issue often overlooked is that EVs help the development of renewables – the more electric cars there are, the more batteries are available for renewable energy storage. This is a key factor as many renewables are by nature unpredictable and may be generated when demand is low.

“In my view, future vehicles must become electric to some degree as part of the shift to a renewable economy. The automation of cars, such as the self-driving car, will also be helped by the electrification of the power train.”

There you have it travel fans. Are you swayed towards the electric car camp? Do you still have concerns about electric? Let us know below.

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